A Change Is Gonna Come

Album: Shake (1965)
Charted: 31
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  • Cooke wrote this as a protest song to support the civil rights movement, as Black Americans fought for equality. Up to this point, most of his songs were either touching ballads ("You Send Me") or lighthearted uptemo tunes ("Twistin' The Night Away"). When Cooke heard Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind," he became determined to write something similar - he couldn't believe Dylan's song wasn't written by a black man.
  • Cooke was deeply affected by the death of his infant son, who drowned in a swimming pool in 1963. He started writing more introspective songs and took an interest in black history and politics.
  • Some of the lyrics were inspired by an incident where Cooke and some of his friends were arrested for disturbing the peace after they were denied rooms at a motel in Shreveport, Louisiana because they were black.
  • "A Change Is Gonna Come" was released as a single a few months after Cooke died. He was shot by a motel owner who claimed he was raping a young girl in one of the rooms. A lot of controversy surrounded his death; Cooke owned his own record label and publishing company, and some people thought he was killed as part of a plot.
  • For Cooke, this was a return to his roots as a gospel singer.
  • When the song was published as a single, the third verse was edited out. The line went, "I go to the movie and I go downtown somebody keep telling me don't hang around" and apparently was too boldly speaking about segregation. The album version shows the whole lyric. When Otis Redding covered this song in his Otis Blue album he followed the single version, with just two verses before the bridge. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Martín - Sevilla, Spain
  • This was released on Tracey Records, a label Cooke started in 1963 following the death of his son. Allen Klein, who was Cooke's business manager, bought Tracey Records after Cooke's death and controls the rights to Cooke's performance of this song. Klein also bought the Cameo/Parkway label, which was home to Herman's Hermits, Bobby Rydell and The Animals.

    Peter Noone, who was lead singer of Herman's Hermits, told the Forgotten Hits newsletter: "Allen Klein THINKS he owns the product and, as he hates music, he has trodden and traded down the works of not only my band but also the genius of Sam Cooke and anyone else he and his family have decided to steal from to pay for their lifestyle. My revenge is to have a happy life and denounce this fraudulent family at every occasion to the point that people think it is a personal vendetta, but I love my life and I bet his family will pay for their fraud one day. Every time someone asks to use a Herman's Hermits song in a movie (eg Naked Gun), I have to go and recreate the music and nothing can beat the original vibe and Allen owns it and hides it. Ever hear a Sam Cooke song in a movie? One of the greatest songs of all time, 'A Change Is Gonna Come' is never heard. How about all the other stuff he owns, like the Cameo/Parkway tracks. His son and daughter now operate the catalogue in the same vein as their crooked father and one day bad things will surely befall them! (Scumbags!) You would think they would at least ask for permission to re-release all our stolen work, and one day the lawyers we throw money at to get these scum will expose them for who and what they are. I use them as an example to my daughter (who is also intent on being in the music business) of what she should avoid, and to try to always act honestly, unlike them."
  • In November 2008 a cover by English singer Seal returned this song to the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for the first time since Cooke's original peaked at #9 in February 1965. Part of the success of Seal's remake can be attributed to it tying in with the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States, who proclaimed in his victory speech that "change has come to America."
  • Seal's remake was the first revival of a Sam Cooke-penned song to appear on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs tally since the Manhattans posted a version of "You Send Me," which arrived at #20 in 1985.
  • This plays in the first episode of the 2021 series The Wonder Years in a scene that depicts the aftermath of the Martin Luther King assassination in a Black community. A 2004 episode of The West Wing also uses the song and is titled "A Change Is Gonna Come." The song also appears in these TV shows:

    The Roseanne Show (Episode #1.11 - 1998)
    Eli Stone ("Help!" - 2008)
    Big Little Lies ("Kill Me" - 2019)

    And in these movies:

    Malcolm X (1992)
    Ali (2001)
    Daddy's Little Girls (2007)

Comments: 36

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 8, 1969, Brenton Wood performed his covered version of "A Change Is Gonna Come" on the Dick Clark ABC-TV Saturday-afternoon program 'American Bandstand'...
    Double Shot Records released the song in February of 1969, it didn't make any of Billboard's charts...
    The original version of "A Change Is Gonna Come" was released by it's composer, Sam Cooke, in 1965 and it peaked at #31 on the Top 100 chart and #9 on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart....
    In 1970 the 5th Dimension covered it, in a medley with "People Gotta Be Free", their version reached #60 on the Top 100...
    Brenton Wood had four records on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart, "The Oogum Boogum Song {#19 in 1967}, "Gimme Little Sign"* {#19 in 1967}, "Baby You Got It {#30 in 1967}, and a covered version of the Fleetwoods' "Come Softly To Me" {#92 in 1977}...
    Brenton Wood, born Alfred Jesse Smith, will celebrate his 77th birthday in four months on July 26th {2018}...
    * And on October 9th, 1967, "Gimme Little Sign" peaked at #9 {for 2 weeks} on Billboard's Top 100 chart.
  • Denoix from Ostend, BelgiumNoby covers like Dylan... a change is gonna come... an Hommage
  • Pamela from Cleveland, OhThe song was used to very moving effect in the movie "Talk to Me," starring Don Cheadle as the Washington, D.C. deejay "Petey" Greene., in the wake of the killing of Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Bob from Somewhere, WaWhenever anyone begins to speak the truth to the people, and the powers determine that enough people will be moved to listen, that "anyone" somehow dies.... Just sayin'
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyThe Fifth Dimension covered this song in 1970; it peaked at No. 60...
  • Joel from Maplegrove, PaThis great song was used in a scene from the t.v. show American Dreams.
  • Theresa from Murfreesboro, TnImportant song, Sam Cooke had a great voice. The Adam Lambert version is also amazing, chills!
  • Mel from Riverbank, CaBettye LaVette and Jon Bon Jovi performed this song at President Obama's inauguration celebration.
    I thought it quite fitting that Adam Lambert was given this song to sing this year on American Idol. There is a current struggle for equality in this country and I sincerely do hope that that change is gonna come sooner rather than later.
  • Kenny from Minneapolis, MnCheck out Patti LaBelle's (2008?) covers, and the 2009 UNCF Tribute to Patti. At the end of the bridge ("...they end up knocking me back down on my knees.") there is a heartfelt scream. That scream by itself is so eloquent. That scream by itself is worth the price of admission. The emotions were so intense, Patti lost track of where she was in the song at that moment, and started singing the wrong verse. Who cares? The audience was all weeping anyway because of the purity and strength of Patti's expression of what Cooke wrote about in the song.
  • Curtis from Lubbock, TxI remember James Taylor covering this song in a episode of West Wing a few years ago. Very powerful and soulful.
  • Kenny from Minneapolis, MnThank you, Melissa, for correcting the rumor that Cooke was accused of rape. I've read that rumor before, but repetition of a rumor does not make it any closer to being true. I wonder who started that rumor and why. As for Sam making Bertha feel "threatened," HOW WOULD YOU FEEL if you came from the shower to find your wallet and even your clothes had WALKED AWAY?! I forget where but I read that he pounded on the locked motel office door, loudly and insistently because he thought the thief was (or might be) in there. I gather (guess) the homicide was ruled LEGALLY "justifiable" or "self-defense." Is that right? FINAL (IDLE?) THOUGHT: I wonder if the thief ever got a clue about the significance of being just one small step away from directly causing Sam's death. I guess we'll never know.
  • Oldpink from New Castle, InThis song was also used in the Movie "X," which was the story of Malcolm X.
    It is played on the part leading up to his assassination by a Nation of Islam gunman.
    Incredibly poignant.
    Sam's vocals on this are simply fantastic.
    Then, you digest the lyrics, and you can't help but get a lump in your throat.
    To me, Sam Cooke resides next to Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra as the best male singers of all time.
    Sam made many excellent songs, such as "Twisting the Night Away" and "Cupid," but this will forever be his masterpiece.
  • Jack from Brookline, MaI LOVE the fact that Sam Cooke was SO inspired by Bob Dylan, who WAS NOT black. It's ALL the MORE remarkable because of the TIME PERIOD back then! It just goes to show you that, AMONGST all the TERRIBLE racism, there still were BOTH BLACKS AND WHITES that were in for the "cause". Bob Dylan is one of the MOST IMPORTANT musicians of ALL time. Sam Cooke is one of the GREATEST singers of ALL TIME. This is a PERFECT MOMENT in music history where one IMMENSELY INFLUENTIAL artist INFLUENCED ANOTHER IMMENSELY INFLUENTIAL artist..It lifts me UP as a PERSON to see this. And MUSIC, to me, is the most INCREDIBLE form of art. GOD BLESS BOB DYLAN and GOD BLESS SAM COOKE...and GOD BLESS BARACK OBAMA! Peace and LOVE TO EVERYONE in the world. One day, we will all go to a "BETTER PLACE"
  • Mark from Niagara Falls, Nyactually, Cory Wells sang the lead on Three Dog Night's version. It is a great cover, nonetheless.
  • Cornell "the Rg" from North Augusta, Sc, ScCHANGE is in the air. We all really realize that we've got to have it. Change Gonna Come is one of those songs that hit the heart of where there's no limitation to our imagination. It discretely, yet directly addresses the ills of Society when a separtist few attempt to marginalize and limit the necessary contributions of the many, the problem of Racism in America.
  • Betty from Baltimore, MdHello Doug,

    Figuratively or literally speaking, Mr. Cooke was referring to "white" men when he referenced "brother."
    Betty B. Washington, DC
  • Ervin from Indianpolis, Inwhen i first heard this song it was on "American Idol" i really think that this song has alot of meaning. i started to cry because i felt where the song was coming from. just the title made me think. the song makes me think. this song is whats hot i would put this on my mp3 player
  • Joel from Columbia, ScNothing, and I mean, nothing beats the original.
    This song was used in a episode of "American Dreams" and was very effective. Although I am supposed to be too young to remember the turbulant 60's I love this song and others like it. Peace brothers & sisters.
  • Doug from Oakland, CaWhat about the lyric,"And I go to my brother and say,'Brother won't you help me,please'but he winds up kncking me,till I'm down on my knees"?
    Two ways to see this lyric.Either he is referring to his"white brothers"who are acting in a racist manner OR he is speaking of his BLACK brothers who are holding back the struggle for freedom,the so called Uncle Toms.
    What do you think?
  • Michael from Toronto, CanadaBest cover version of this - Jeffrey Gaines - on Live CD. Chilling!
  • Gomer from Mayberry, NcOther covers include Aretha Franklin, Aaron Neville, (both as solo and with the Brothers), Terence Trent Darby, Patti Labelle, and ... Elvin Bishop!
  • Latisha from Batesville, MsSam Cooke is the greatest artist of ALL TIME! In my book, he beats Michael Jackson! Everything that Sam wrote touched the hearts of millions. He was a genius in his own right! I wish that he was still here but I know that he is in a better place with his son. Sam Cooke will live on in my heart and in the hearts of many!

    Rest in Peace Sam . . .

    Love, LaTisha Rudd (Mississippi)
  • Shonda from Los Angeles, CaI love this song. Nobody does it better than Sam Cooke with his raspy voice. It give me chills. The lyrics are sad but, shows a sign a hope near the end of the song.
  • Julien from Strasbourg, FranceThis was also covered by The Fugees, Billy Preston, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, Van Morrison, Bobby Womack, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding,...
  • Scott from San Francisco, CaR&B singer Leela James covered this song on her album, also named, "A Change Is Gonna Come"
  • Derek Anderson from East Kilbride, ScotlandRips your heart apart, his range of vocals is phenomenal. Hard to think this is just over 40yrs ago
  • Ross from Independence, MoThis is #12 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
  • Craig from Madison, WiUsed in the film Malcolm X when Malcolm is walking to the meeting hall where he will be killed, and the stranger offers a word of support and inspiration to him. No song could have worked better for that scene.
  • Jakevia from Atlanta, GaGavin DeGraw covered this song on the Stripped version of his album Chariot
  • Stewart from Dundee, ScotlandCheck out the version by the Band on the album Moondog Matinee... beautifully sung and played
  • Jeff from Hamden, Ctthis was diffinitly a plot, because he was friends with muhammad ali, malcolm x, jim brown,etc.
  • Martijn from Helmond, NetherlandsApparently Sam Cooke was dressed only in his underwear when said motel owner shot him. Afterwards she said she felt threatened by him. Makes you wonder what he threatened her with.
  • Vern Collins from Vancouver, WaNobody---NO BODY does it better than Sam. Makes me weep everytime I hear it.
  • Xavier from Melbourne, AustraliaRolling Stone named this song the Greatest Soul Song Ever, in their September 2004 issue.
  • Melissa from Walled Lake, MiThe motel owner, Bertha Franklin, shot Sam Cooke not because she thought he was raping a young girl, but because he was accusing her of being invovled in a plot to rob him. He had checked into the motel with a young woman (thought to be a prostitute) who robbed him of his wallet and clothes while he was showering. He ran to into the motel office (after finding his personl effects missing)and began a heated argument with Franklin--during which she fatally shot him.
  • Dave from Phoenix, AzI normally do not like "remakes", but Three Dog Night's Danny Hutton does a GREAT job covering this song.
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